Petrified trees at De-Na-Zin Wilderness Area, New Mexico

October 7, 2015

Click for a larger view -- see the petrified trees, darker brown and lying horizontal? American Southwest posted this on Facebook.

Click for a larger view — see the petrified trees, darker brown and lying horizontal? American Southwest posted this on Facebook, “Two petrified trees at the edge of a plateau on the north side of De-Na-Zin Wash.”

This is BLM land, but real wilderness — no trails. More examples of what makes America great, and worth defending.

It seems to be a great place for stargazing, too.

New Appalachian Wildlife Refuge protects very rare species: Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge

May 15, 2015

A 39-acre donation from The Nature Conservancy and a lot of work by the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy joined to birth a new National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina.

Welcome the Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge.

Jack-in-the-pulpit, one of the less rare of the rare plants protected by the creation of the Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina. USFWS photo

Jack-in-the-pulpit, one of the less rare of the rare plants protected by the creation of the Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina. USFWS photo

The April 22, 2015, press release from USFWS:

New National Wildlife Refuge Established to Protect Some of Appalachia’s Rarest Places

April 22, 2015

Trout lily blooming at Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: Gary Peeples, USFWS.

Trout lily blooming at Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: Gary Peeples, USFWS.

Asheville, N.C. – The Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge became America’s 563rd refuge today.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Deputy Director Jim Kurth visited Western North Carolina to announce the establishment of a new national wildlife refuge devoted to the conservation of southern Appalachian mountain bogs, one of the rarest and most imperiled habitats in the United States.  North Carolina is home to 11 refuges; Mountain Bogs Refuge is the first one west of Charlotte.

“The establishment of Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge marks a turning point in the efforts of a number of dedicated partners in preserving this unique and threatened habitat,” said Kurth. “It will provide a focal point for mountain bog conservation in the area, and highlights the importance of our National Wildlife Refuge System in preserving our nation’s spectacular biodiversity for future generations of Americans.”

“While western North Carolina has beautiful swaths of conserved public lands, mountain bogs, which are home to several endangered species, are largely unprotected,” said Mike Oetker, Deputy Regional Director for the Service’s Southeast Region.  “People have worked for decades to conserve these bogs, and creating this refuge was an opportunity to build on that effort in a significant way.”

The Nature Conservancy donated an easement on a 39-acre parcel in Ashe County, the site of Kurth’s visit, which formally establishes the refuge.

“Today’s announcement is the culmination of years of work by conservation partners at the local, state and national level,” said The Nature Conservancy’s Fred Annand, who coordinates the Conservancy’s acquisition work. “Many people have worked together for years to make today a reality. Successful conservation depends on partnership, and that’s certainly the case today.”

Mountain bogs are typically small and widely scattered across the landscape, often isolated from other wetlands. Important to wildlife and plants, mountain bogs are home to five endangered species – bog turtles, green pitcher plant, mountain sweet pitcher plant, swamp pink (a lily), and bunched arrowhead. They also provide habitat for migratory birds and game animals, including mink, woodcock, ruffed grouse, turkey, and wood duck. Bogs are breeding habitat for many species of amphibians, especially salamanders, of which the Southern Appalachians have the greatest diversity in the nation. Bogs also provide key benefits to humans. They have a natural capacity for regulating water flow, holding floodwaters like giant sponges and slowly releasing water to nearby streams decreasing the impacts of floods and droughts.

In addition to The Nature Conservancy, Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy has long been active in bog conservation and has been supportive of establishing the new refuge.

“Southern Appalachian bogs are biodiversity hotspots,” said Kieran Roe, Executive Director at Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy. “But they are disappearing from our region at a rapid rate. Less than 20 percent of the mountain bogs that once existed still remain, so their protection is critical.”

The refuge may eventually grow to 23,000 acres, depending on the willingness of landowners to sell and the availability of funds to purchase those lands. To guide acquisition, and bog conservation in general, the Service has identified 30 sites, or Conservation Partnership Areas, containing bogs and surrounding lands. These sites are scattered across Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Clay, Graham, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Transylvania, Wilkes and Watauga counties in North Carolina, and Carter and Johnson counties in Tennessee. The Service will look primarily within these Conservation Partnership Areas to acquire land and/or easements. For those acres that won’t be acquired, the Service will work to support private landowners in their stewardship activities. Funding to acquire land and easements would likely come from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, funded by fees collected from the sale of publicly-owned offshore oil and gas drilling leases.

While some parts of the refuge would likely be too fragile for recreation, the Service anticipates other parts could be open for wildlife-based recreation, including hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and photography, education, and interpretation.

The Service manages national wildlife refuges for the conservation of fish, wildlife and plants. In 1903 President Theodore Roosevelt created the first national wildlife refuge to protect brown pelican breeding grounds on the east coast of Florida. The Refuge System now includes 563 refuges across the nation, protecting more than 150 million acres. It’s the only system of federally-managed lands dedicated to wildlife. For more information, visit

The National Wildlife Refuge System protects wildlife and wildlife habitat on more than 150 million acres of land and water from the Caribbean to the Pacific, Maine to Alaska. Refuges also improve human health, provide outdoor recreation and support local economies. Visit our home page at Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Our Dallas area trout lilies have all blossomed, weeks ago. Interesting that bog-bound trout lilies share so much in common with their drier land cousins a few thousand miles away.


Young public school artists draw award-winning inspiration from endangered species.

May 1, 2015

Young artists inspired by #endangeredspecies:1st prize D Starovoytov,6th grade  @EcoSchoolsUSA  From @USFWSRefuges

Young artists inspired by #endangeredspecies:1st prize D Starovoytov,6th grade @EcoSchoolsUSA From @USFWSRefuges

Maybe someone can make that 6th grader’s day, or life, by asking to purchase that piece (watercolor?) for a few thousands of dollars, to go into a college fund.

The USFWS blog, A Talk on the Wildside, announced the winners of the agency’s 2015 Saving Endangered Species Youth Art Contest.

David Starovoytov, a sixth-grader from California, won the Grand Prize with his art of a Kentucky arrow darter, a beautiful fish found only in eastern Kentucky. During the breeding season, the males are blue-green with scarlet spots and scarlet-orange vertical bars on their body.  The Kentucky arrow darter is a candidate for federal listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Federal candidates warrant ESA protection but are sometimes precluded from listing by other higher priority listing actions (other species are more imperiled and take priority).  Each year, the Service publishes a list and summarizes the current status for all candidate species in its Candidate Notice of Review (CNOR). The CNOR helps landowners and natural resource managers plan conservation to address threats to candidate species. The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources has identified the Kentucky arrow darter as a species of greatest conservation need and has been hard at work conserving it through captive breeding and other projects.  A key threat to the Kentucky arrow darter is degradation of habitat through surface coal mining and other human activities.  Changes in water quality have a profound impact on all aquatic species, including the Kentucky arrow darter.

The darter itself has an interesting story. Cool that a California kid heard the story, and made such a nice work of art.

The rest of the press release, and other winners:

AlligatorFourteen-year-old Seungeun Yi, of California, took second place with art of an American alligator, actually one of our greatest ESA successes. As recently as the 1950s, American alligator populations were at all-time lows as market-hunting and habitat loss decimated the species. ESA protection prohibited hunting, and the alligator began to recover, and states throughout the South helped make sure the population increased. We declared the animal fully recovered in 1987, but related species are still in trouble, so the American alligator is listed as “threatened due to similarity of appearance.

San Francisco garter snake

Another Californian, Mark Deaver, 8, won the Grades k-2 Category with his art of an endangered San Francisco garter snake. The San Francisco garter snake with its turquoise body and orange, black and red-orange stripes, is often called the most beautiful snake in the United States. Because they are so beautiful, some people collect them illegally. But the more significant threat comes from habitat loss. We are working with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the National Park Service, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, the California Department of Parks and Recreation and other partners to provide habitat for the snake.


Difei Li, 10, of New Jersey, won the Grades 3-5 Category with art of a bald eagle. Perhaps the ESA success story, the bald eagle population bottomed out in 1963 with just 417 nesting pairs in the contiguous United States. Habitat destruction and degradation, illegal shooting and the widespread use of DDT had sent the eagle population plummeting after World War II. Protecting habitat, banning most DDT use and a host of conservation actions by the American public helped bald eagles make a remarkable recovery. Though removed from the endangered species list in 2007 because their populations recovered sufficiently, bald eagles are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Act.

Northern aplomado falconClaire Noelle Kiernicki, 12, of  Illinois, won the Grades 6-8 Category with art of an endangered Northern aplomado falcon. Once widespread throughout the American Southwest, the aplomado falcon disappeared in South Texas in the 1940s and 1950s because of widespread loss of habitat.  An aggressive captive breeding and re-introduction effort has improved population numbers and the aplomado falcon is making a comeback in southern Texas.


Adam Pavan, 15, of California, won the Grades 9-12 Category with art of an endangered Hawaiian hoary bat. Also known as the ‘ope‘ape‘a, populations are believed to be threatened by habitat loss, pesticides, predation, and roost disturbance. Its decline may be primarily due to the reduction of tree cover in historic times, and they may be indirectly impacted by the use of pesticides. Conservation plans guide the management and use of forests to reduce negative efforts to known bat populations and, continued support for the ‘ope‘ape‘a research cooperative.

Congratulations to all the entrants and thank you for helping spread the word about the endangered species of  the United States and its waters.

What rocks Yosemite? Granite

July 7, 2013

Yosemite’s Nature Notes #20 (I’m behind):  A short film discussing the astonishing manifestations of granite in Yosemite National Park.

English: El Capitan in Yosemite National Park ...

El Capitan in Yosemite National Park viewed from the Valley Floor — one of the more famous granite formations in the Park. Wikipedia image

The film is simply named, “Granite.”  Steven Bumgardner produced the film.

Yosemite’s chief formations are granite, an igneous rock.  Much of the terrain was carved in the granite by glaciers and glaciation — so what Yosemite shows is how fire and ice combine to make rock, to make rock formations, and to make rocks of astonishing beauty.

(This is not a place to bolster creationist ideas.  This is real science, looking at God’s handiwork first hand.)

A North Carolina university makes field trips to Yosemite?  I’d love to take that class!

Watching this film, you get a sense of how important it can be to the education of our children to travel in the summers, to take vacations to our National Parks, and to places like Yosemite.

Where are you taking your kids this summer?  Kids, where are you going?

Enjoy it.  Geology lessons are often fun, and this one, on film, is more fun than most.


Close-up of granite from Yosemite National Par...

Close-up of granite from Yosemite National Park, valley of the Merced River – Wikipedia image

Quote of the moment: Rachel Carson, on why her nature writing sounds so much like poetry

June 14, 2013

Rachel Carson said:

“If there is poetry in my book about the sea, it is not because I deliberately put it there, but because no one could write truthfully about the sea and leave out the poetry.”

Cover of The Gentle Subversive, by Mark Hamilton Lytle, for Oxford University Press.

Cover of The Gentle Subversive, by Mark Hamilton Lytle, for Oxford University Press.

Bug Girl wrote a fine review last year of an often over-looked book on Carson, The Gentle Subversive: Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, and the Rise of the Environmental Movement  (Mark Hamilton Lytle, 2007. Oxford Univ. Press.)  It’s worth your click over there to read a nice piece on Carson, on women in science, and on nature writing.

Bug Girl spends the necessary time and space answering critics of Carson, of Silent Spring, and those few odd but incredibly active and loud advocates who claim we can conquer disease if we can only spread enough DDT poison around the Earth.  Go see.

I find it impossible to stand in a place like Yosemite and not hear John Muir‘s voice — and it’s probably that John Muir found that, too.  Or stand on the shores of Waldon Pond and not hear Henry David Thoreau, or stand on sandy soil in Wisconsin and not hear Aldo Leopold, or sit on a redrock outcropping in southern Utah and not hear Ed Abbey.  They probably heard similar voices.  But they had the presence of mind to write down what they heard.

Writing wonderful prose, or poetry, must be easier when the subject sings of itself in your ears, and paints itself in glory for your eyes.

If Carson’s prose borders on poetry, does that add to, or subtract from its science value?


U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt (left) and n...

U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt (left) and nature preservationist John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club , on Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park. In the background: Upper and lower Yosemite Falls. Wikipedia image

War between frogs and dragonflies: Frog fail!

April 2, 2013

Which do you think eats more destructive insects, a frog or a dragonfly?

In the war between frogs and dragonflies, for which do we cheer?

Browbeat said:

You should read Natalie Angier’s entire piece about dragonflies from yesterday’s New York Times, of course. But first, you should watch the video above, by Andrew Mountcastle, which accompanies the piece. You should watch it again and again and again.


Yosemite’s Horsetail Falls at its fiery best

February 26, 2013

Photo Tweeted from the National Park Service:

Bethany Gediman photo of Horsetail Falls, Yosemite NP, glowing orange

Horsetail Fall flows over the eastern edge of El Capitan in Yosemite Valley. It’s a small waterfall that many people don’t notice, but it has gained popularity as more and more people have noticed it can glow orange during sunset in mid to late February. The most popular place to see Horsetail Fall seemingly afire is El Capitan picnic area, west of Yosemite Lodge and east of El Capitan (see map below). The “firefall” effect generally happens during the second half of February. A clear sky is necessary for the waterfall to glow orange. Photo: Bethany Gediman, NPS

People living close to National Parks are lucky to do so; people who work in them luckier still, in the lifetime sweepstakes for seeing breathtaking sites.  NPS employee (Ranger?) Bethany Gediman caught this image of Horsetail Fall in Yosemite National Park.

Be sure to see the video of Yosemite Nature Notes No. 14, posted here earlier. It shows Horsetail at sunset in full glory.  Great photography.

How to get there:

Map to Horsetail Falls, Yosemite NP

Map of Yosemite National Park, showing Horsetail Falls and hiking trail to get to viewpoint in the photograph.



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